As a young mom living in very cold (and sometimes very dark) Alaska, if it weren’t for frequent playdates with my friends and their children, I just might not have survived those days. Playdates offered my kids a chance to get out and have some fun and it offered me something I desperately needed – adult conversation!
The folks at Kmart completely understand this! It’s exciting to see a company notice a need for something and offer a place where parents can get advice and ideas from. Have you heard of Kmart’s Playdate Place? If not, are you ever in for a treat!
I had the chance to chat with Julia Fitzgerald, Chief Marketing Officer for Toys and Seasonal at Kmart, about why Kmart came up with this idea and what you’ll find when you visit. Julia was such a joy to talk to and we had one excellent conversation about playdates. Not only is she a pro at all things toys, but as a mom, she understands the importance of playdates.
Kmart has also enlisted the help of a handful of mommy and dad bloggers who just so happen to know a thing or two about playdates. They are a diverse group with some amazing things to share!
We talked about a little of everything from what you’ll find when you visit Kmart’s Playdate Place (cool stuff I tell ya!) to planning a playdate and of course, TOYS! So sit back, go grab a cup of coffee and take some notes. And by all means, visit the Playdate Place for oodles of playdate fun.
ToyXplosion: What can you tell me about Kmart’s Playdate Place and why they decided to start something like this?
Julia F: As we started to look at the social conversations that were happening within our Kmart and Sears community, there was a lot of talk about playdates. We realized that there wasn’t a great forum where this was the primary topic. We also have a lot of great vendor partners who have fabulous toys for playdates. So we really started to take a look at the social conversation and where Kmart could step in, and that’s when we came up with the Playdate Place.
ToyXplosion: You are so right! There really isn’t anything out there directly devoted to playdates, so I think this is a great idea.
Julia F: Exactly. We’ve been able to enlist a lot of great experts who have a lot to say about it, with a lot of engagement there. Even companies like Fisher Price and Step2 came to the party and said ‘We have the best toys for playdates!’. So, it’s all come together really well.
ToyXplosion: What can you tell me about some of the parenting experts that are providing tips and content for the site?
Julia F: We really have a nice array. We have Isabell Kallman of AlphaMom.com, who has a 7 yr old, and she talks about playdate life in the big city. Liz Thompson of ThisFullHouse.com, who has multiple children and looks at playdates from that perspective. We have Jodi Grundig of MomsFavoriteStuff.com, who has a great following and not only brings her own perspective, but also her readers who share their ideas with her. There’s also Lamar and Ronnie Tyler of BlackandMarriedwithKids.com who add what’s great
for their family. There’s also Migdalia Rivera, from LatinaOnAMission.
We didn’t want to leave out the dads! We have Jason Avant of DadCentric, so he brings that voice from a dad blogger.
There are several more who are involved and as you can see we have a wide range of people contributing, who can all add their view as to what the conversations about and give us things to think about.
ToyXplosion: That is a great diverse group of people! Not every playdate looks the same or have the same needs, so it’s great to have all of these different people to add their two cents.
Julia F: And the fact that they all have different age kids really adds to the variety of conversation. A ‘playdate’ for a tween looks a whole lot different than a playdate for a preschooler.
ToyXplosion: So, I hear there are some perks on toys on the site as well. What kind of perks will parents find?
Julia F: We try to have something that will be made available every week. As of now, one of our favorite products is the Get Out N Grill by Little Tikes ($39.99). It’s nice because not only do we provide information on the toy, but some of the bloggers are doing giveaways for the toys. So, there are little freebies like that.
Also, coming up in July, we are working with Fisher Price where they will feature several toys together that would be perfect for a whole playdate. We’ll be offering great discounts and coupons on the toys. We are also giving people the chance to win a whole package for their playdate.
ToyXplosion: What are some benefits for kids when it comes to play dates?
Julia F: It’s that whole socializaton piece over and above just straight out fun. Especially if you are the first child in the family and you have no siblings, playdates are frequently their chance to interact with other kids and depending on their age, learning that interactive play. For young children, playing side by side really starts to teach them how to share and how to start doing group activities.
Playdates are a good gateway into any sort of formalized schooling. When a child has consistently been apart of a playdate, it makes going into preschool or Kindergarten much less intimidating.
ToyXplosion: What are some benefits for parents when it comes to play dates?
Julia F: Speaking from experience, sometimes you just go crazy! When it’s just you and kids for days on end, you miss and need that other companionship from other parents. The topics that a mom with a two year old wants to talk about, won’t be boring to another mom with a two year old. They will both be on the same page. So, I think it’s great for that imediate fix to have the chance to talk to other kindred spirits who understand where you are at and coming from. It’s nice to have someone to get tips from and someone over two feet tall to talk to.
Another thing I have found, is if you end up living in the same neighborhood for awhile, it helps you to get to know the parents of the children your kids are playing with. So, from an early age all the way up to high school, you already know those parents. Some of these friendships you build over playdates are long lasting friendships for both the kids and the parents.
Also, although parents can connect through social media now, playdates are important for that face to face time. Your kids are there having a good time together and it allows parents to have that social interaction at the same time as their kids. They don’t feel like their being ignored while you’re on Facebook. It really is a win for everybody.
ToyXplosion: Do you have any tips to make sure the playdate goes smoothly?
Julia F: Well, I don’t have nearly as many great tips as our experts, so let’s just go straight to them.
- One thing they recommend is providing age appropriate toys for the playdate and making sure there are activities suited well to the age of the kids.
- Frequently, if the kids are more closer in age, the playdate will be more successful.
- Another thing is kids end up getting hungry at some point during the playdate, so having some snacks for them will help keep them from getting hungry and grouchy.
- Some other tips are just baseline safety guidelines. Make sure you know if there are any food allergies.
- Define the space for playdates. In many homes, certain areas are kid friendly but others are not.
- Set a couple of firm rules that helps everyone stay on the same page. Some examples are: doors stay open, food stays in the kitchen. Not all moms have the same rules for their home, so it’s perfectly fine at the beginning of the playdate to share the rules with the other moms and children. Say it up front with a smile on your face and everyone knows what to expect.
- Timing is also important. Keeping a playdate to about 2 hours is usually a good amount of time. By that time, a lot of the play that’s going to happen has already occurred. The perfect time to close up shop, is while everyone is still having a good time.
ToyXplosion: Let’s talk toys! What are some hot outdoor toys parents should consider for the summer?
Here are a few that are heavily discussed on the Playdate Place website:
Easy Score Basketball ($29.99)- This features a junior sized net and you can use it outisde or inside. It has an automatic ball return. It encourages active play. Requires no level of athleticism, just enthusiasm.
Get Out N Grill ($39.99)- Great for role play. Several kids can play with it at the same time.
3 In 1 Trike ($99.99)- If the kids are really young, it has a nice long handle on the back so moms can take the kids out for a push and stroll together as part of an activity. It’s also great for kids who are just learning how to power a tricycle on their own.
Cars 2 – Little boys are going to want to play with anything related to Cars 2. The Cars 1 Blu-ray/DVD Combo-Pack includes one free movie ticket to see Cars 2 in theaters (ticket comes inside of the Blu-ray/DVD pack).
Grow with Me 1-2-3 Inline Skates ($22.99) – These are perfect for the older kids – 4/5/6 year olds. These encourage active play. It teaches a whole new lever of coordination with balance and self-propelling. Also, they don’t let kids go too fast because they have really great wheel control.
Grow to Pro Triple Hit Baseball Set ($29.99)- This is a great way to get the little ones started with t-ball. It gives them some experience with picking up a bat and swinging it. It’s great for hand/eye coordination and even if the child is on his own, this set has pop up pitches where he can hit it by himself. It’s great for a playdate because the kids can take turns trying to hit the balls and then run around the yard picking them up! They can get some energy out.
Power Wheels Barbie Jammin Jeep ($269.99)- We are big fans of this one. You do need a good place to store these like your garage or shed, because they are a fairly good size. It lets girls feel like they are off-roading it Barbie style. They are very realistic with FM radio, the doors that really work and the headlights.
Those are just a few, but any toys that encourage active play and imaginative play are great for a playdate.
The more moms and dads who get involved with Kmart’s Playdate Place the better! Help make this one amazing community by getting involved, as well as picking up some playdate tips from other moms and dads. If you’ve been wanting to plan a playdate, but didn’t know where to start, the Playdate Place is the perfect destination for you. If you are a pro at planning playdates and need some new ideas, this place is for you as well!